The first day of autumn is this weekend, September 22. Oh, how the summer flew by. For some, it is the start of a new school year. Others may be focused on the holidays ahead. Each of us is busy with something. One thing you may not be focused on right now is gardening. Like me, some people may consider fall time to be harvest season and you put all garden-related thoughts in hibernation from now until after winter has passed.
This post will bring to light some information on fall gardening. If you look forward to tending a garden either as a hobby or to save your family money, then don’t clean out your fingernails just yet. Let’s get our hands dirty together.
Important to Know
Average date of First Frost: This is important because you will want your plants to be well established before the first freeze. If you’re buying transplants (plants that are already started for you) then this isn’t quite as important. The Farmer’s Almanac website gives you a map to check when the first frost will likely hit your area.
Cool Weather Plants: The cool weather plants that you will plant in the fall can thrive not only in the cooler weather, but also the shorter hours of daylight. Cool weather plants are ideal for fall and spring gardening.
Days to Maturation: On your seed packet you can find how many days it will take your seed to become what you will put on your table. If, for example, the date for your first frost is October 29 and your spinach seeds will take 45 days to harvest, then you will want to plant them by September 15 or before (frost dates and days to maturation are not 100% accurate).
Check out this link on days to maturation for several crops. With it being the end of September already, it might actually be too late to plant some fall crops, but keep this list handy for next year.
What to Plant
Think greens and root vegetables for fall gardens. Leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, arugula, and chard are perfect for the cooler weather. Roots such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes will thrive as well. Brassicas, part of the mustard family, include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards and kale, will also do well during the cooler months. These are considered fall crops because they grow best in cooler temperatures and tend not to require as much attention.
Varieties of plants range in cold hardiness, check which variety is best suited for fall and even into winter. Cold hardiness is the ability for plants to grow in adverse growing conditions.
Good Choices for Fall Gardening
- Asparagus Does best in direct sunlight in non-soggy soil preferably a little sandy.
- Garlic Learn how to regrow garlic (and other vegetables) here.
- Kale and Collard Greens Hardier than most crops. They will produce into and maybe through winter. Great way to keep the greens on the table through the cold months.
- Broccoli If you’re buying seeds start them inside as they have a hard time starting outside in the still warm soil.
When to Plant
For most cooler weather crops and in most regions, you need to plant toward the end of summer or very beginning of fall. So, scratch your plans for this weekend and go get your fall crops and supplies! Harvest will vary among crops, but you can expect to harvest as early as late fall and as late as toward the end of winter. If you want greens to survive the winter you need to give them some protection.
Protect Your Crop
Providing a cover for your fall crops might be all they need to survive the winter and provide food for your family year-round. You can decide how much money and time you want to put into your covering. You can build a miniature greenhouse using lumber and plastic tarps in which you place over your plants. If you’re looking for a more simple way to protect your crops, you can simply place a layer of compost, mulch, or leaves over them.
More resources for fall gardening: